So, you thought this series against the Grizzlies would be easy?
A dominating first half by the Thunder was turned on its head Saturday night. A blowout turned into slugfest, and the hometown team found itself hanging on for dear life in the opening game of this Western Conference playoff series.
Oklahoma City 100, Memphis 86.
Welcome to Thunder-Grizzlies, Round 3.
These two franchises are meeting in the playoffs for the third time in four years. Three years ago, the Thunder won a hard-fought seven-game series. Last year, the Grizzlies won in five as the Thunder played shorthanded without an injured Russell Westbrook.
What will this year bring?
Saturday night at The Peake gave us a glimpse of just how competitive this series could be.
The Thunder dominated early, leading by 14 points before the end of the first quarter and by 25 before the end of the first half. The Grizzlies, known for their talented post players, struggled inside. Late in the second quarter, Memphis had managed to make only eight field goals while Oklahoma City had blocked seven of its attempts.
Kevin Durant and Westbrook combined for 33 points in the half, nearly outscoring Memphis, which had 34 points.
But the Grizzlies clawed back. Big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol got going, combining for 14 points in the third quarter. The Memphis defense also caused five turnovers, which was as many as Oklahoma City had in the whole first half.
In the third quarter, Memphis was 14 of 24. In the entire first half, it was 12 of 48.
All told, Memphis outscored OKC 31-13 in the quarter.
All of that set up a nail-biting fourth quarter. But the Thunder was able to get back to the gritty defense and the up-tempo offense that it displayed in the first half. That turned a four-point lead at the end of the third quarter into double-digit lead midway through the fourth that the Thunder would never relinquish.
Game 2 will be 7 p.m. Monday in Oklahoma City.